The Case for Chase d’Arnaud

Chase d'Arnaud Pirates

While Bucco fans remain frustrated with a certain veteran utility man, Chase d’Arnaud is doing well at Class AAA Indianapolis after suffering a thumb injury in spring training. The 26-year-old infielder appeared in 48 games in 2011 and eight games in 2012 with the Pirates. Is there any chance he could be promoted to Pittsburgh and help the big league club right now?

Why it could happen: There are few – if any – solid shortstops available for the Pirates to acquire and upgrade over Clint Barmes. As James Santelli wrote on Pirates Prospects last week, “a triumvirate of Barmes, Mercer and Chase d’Arnaud is about as good as the Pirates will get.” d’Arnaud missed the beginning of the season because of the thumb, but has hit .288 with an .858 OPS since returning. In his last 10 games, he’s hit .300 with a pair of homers.

Why it should happen: d’Arnaud can adequately play 2B, 3B, and SS, which is a plus defensively. He hasn’t made any errors in 60 defensive chances for Indianapolis thus far in 2013, and he’s played all three spots in the big leagues before.

Chase  d'Arnaud Defense

Chase  d'Arnaud Defense 2

Another huge plus is his speed – if the Pirates need a pinch-runner to wreak havoc and/or swipe a bag, d’Arnaud is the guy.

Chase  d'Arnaud Speed

As previously mentioned, his bat is heating up at Triple-A. While he may not be the best hitter of all-time, you have to be confident that he’ll match Brandon Inge‘s .210/.238/.235 line at the minimum. Inge is hitting just .083 (2-for-24) since May 24th.

Why it won’t happen: Getting rid of Clint Barmes is a longshot, and Mercer should stay on the bench. It ultimately comes down to d’Arnaud vs. Inge… which is exactly why it probably won’t happen. Inge has the intangibles – or “Ingetangibles,” if you will – that Clint Hurdle & Co. love in a veteran leader, the kind of chemistry that Brandon McCarthy described as adding about 20 wins to the Oakland A’s last year. Hurdle and Neal Huntington – desperately trying to avoid the hot seat by preventing another collapse – will likely go with the experienced player at the end of the day, even if it means limited production at the plate. Also, there’s the argument that it makes more sense to play d’Arnaud every day in Indy than to have him sit on the bench in Pittsburgh.

Chase d’Arnaud could be an upgrade for the Bucco bench, but it’d still be a surprise to see it happen.

Walker returns, Mercer sent back to AAA

“The Pittsburgh Kid” Neil Walker returns to the Pirates lineup after lacerating his right hand on April 26th. The 27-year-old second baseman hit .253/.352/.342 in 23 games before his injury.

In the corresponding move, Jordy Mercer has been sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis. He went 8-for-31 with two doubles and eight home runs in nine games since Friday, May 3rd. Bucco fans are disappointed by this move, to say the least.

Obviously it’s good to see Neil back, but sending Mercer out hurts the club. The Pirates could either send Jordy back to Indy (as they did), or keep him on the roster & cut someone from their surplus of old, light-hitting infielders, like John McDonald. McDonald, dubbed “The Prime Minister of Defense,” has two hits in 30 at-bats, posting a -0.5 WAR. There’s no doubt Mercer can help the club more than McDonald right now, but the main argument is that he will see regular at-bats in AAA rather than splitting time in Pittsburgh.

Either way you slice it, the Bucs likely don’t have the best 25 players on the roster right now (and it goes beyond this move). But at the end of the day, it’s a business, and we are all just fans with no say in the matter.

Updated Pirates Depth Chart

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

Bucs acquire John McDonald

Ken Rosenthal broke the news at 12:15 pm on Wednesday that the Pirates picked up veteran infielder John McDonald. In return, the Bucs will be offering a player to be named later.

McDonald, 38, carries 14 years of major league experience, playing with Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, and Arizona. Despite his age, he’s still a slick fielder that has the potential to be a useful backup. McDonald, who is a career .239/.276/.331 hitter, won’t do much at the plate, but has the ability to play shortstop, second, and third base.

He’ll make $1.5 million in 2013, so he’s pretty much guaranteed a spot on the roster. Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and Ivan De Jesus are currently battling for the second utility infield role, if the Pirates choose to go that route. Mercer is enjoying a nice spring offensively; however, he would probably benefit more by getting consistent at-bats in Triple-A Indianapolis instead of sitting on the bench in Pittsburgh. De Jesus, who was part of the Joel Hanrahan trade, has also had a good spring at the plate, but the club may not be sold on his defensive abilities. Harrison appears to be the likely candidate, unless they prefer to only keep one backup infielder. J-Hay isn’t much of a shortstop, but is capable of playing right field in a pinch.

Chase d’Arnaud needs thumb surgery, and will be out for 6-8 weeks. Therefore, he’ll be moved to the 60-day DL, opening a spot on the 40-man roster for McDonald.

By acquiring John McDonald, the Pirates solidify their shortstop depth. Assuming McDonald, Michael McKenry, and Gaby Sanchez are locks for the bench, that leaves two more spots to be filled before the team heads north. Besides Mercer, Harrison, and De Jesus, other players that are fighting for backup roles: Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, Brad Hawpe, Felix Pie, and Brandon Inge. Neal Huntington & Co. have just over a week to make their final decisions.

Click HERE to participate in our ticket giveaway.

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

How does Inge impact the backup infield competition?

With the full squad practicing at Pirate City in preparation for the upcoming season, the club has a few decisions to make in terms of filling out the roster.

One particular area of competition is for the backup infield job(s). This spot heated up recently, as the Bucs signed veteran infielder Brandon Inge on Tuesday night.

The Pirates have enjoyed keeping two versatile infielders on the team recently. With Gaby Sanchez platooning at first, Michael McKenry backing up Russell Martin, and a backup outfielder to be determined, it’s assumed they’ll follow the same template this year. Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison seemed to have an edge entering spring training, but the addition of Inge makes things interesting. Inge is on the downside of his career and not too productive; however, all three options have their flaws.

One thing that Inge brings to the table is plenty of experience. Remember when Neil Walker said this back in October?

[quote_box author=”Neil Walker” profession=”Pirates 2B”]“I think experience is probably the biggest thing. When you’ve got an organization that’s as successful as the Cardinals and you have guys like Wainwright, Carpenter and Beltran … when you get into these (playoff) situations, the younger guys are looking at the older guys and seeing how they react to things. It’s a testament to the veteran leadership more than the performance of the younger guys.” [/quote_box]

Harrison and Mercer, at ages 25 and 26 respectively, have little experience but possess an important responsibility by producing off the bench. Inge, on the hand, has 1482 games under his belt, including 77 postseason at-bats. An old-school guy like Clint Hurdle may appreciate a veteran leader coming off the bench.

There’s some upside to him defensively, as he can play all around the diamond. He’s mostly a third baseman, meaning he could rest Pedro Alvarez from time to time. He has also played all three outfield positions, as well as a bit of action at second base. Inge entered the league as a catcher, so he could be useful as an emergency backstop.

The main problem with Inge is his steady decline in offensive numbers. He has the ability to show off some power, but hasn’t posted a respectable OPS in years and has never hit for much average.

Another issue is that he’s coming off a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in September. At age 35, there’s reason to question his ability to stay healthy.

Strong cases can be made for Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer; for all we know, they could still have the best shot at making the team and Inge is just depth. Regardless, this is an intriguing competition to watch as spring unfolds. The Pirates will play their first exhibition game in a little over a week.

Here’s Inge hitting a walk-off grand slam for the A’s in May:

Photo: lakelandlocal/Creative Commons

2012 in Review: Infield

Solid play – both offensively and defensively – led to a dependable core of Bucco infielders.

The top seven infielders in 2012:

Garrett Jones 145 .274 27 86 .832
Neil Walker 129 .280 14 69 .768
Clint Barmes 144 .229 8 45 .593
Pedro Alvarez 149 .244 30 85 .784
Josh Harrison 104 .233 3 16 .624
Gaby Sanchez 50 .241 4 13 .720
Jordy Mercer 42 .210 1 5 .639

Other players that saw action in the infield: Matt Hague, Brock Holt, Yamaico Navarro, Jeff Clement, Chase d’Arnaud.

GI Jones definitely put up some strong numbers. His power helped keep the Bucs afloat whenever Cutch struggled, and his defense seemed to get better as he became the every-day first baseman. Neil put up some unreal numbers in June and July, and despite his season-ending injury in September, he still was one of the best second basemen in the league. His development over the past three years has really shown. He combined with Barmes to be a very strong tandem up the middle. Clint, despite some disappointing offensive numbers, was solid at shortstop. Many even thought he should have been up for a Gold Glove. His offensive struggles only seemed to be highlighted when the team struggled, which isn’t really fair to a shortstop who is more known for his defense. At the hot corner, Pedro had some major ups and downs. He displayed his cannon of an arm, but it sometimes resulted in the ball landing 15 rows up in the stands. At the plate, his streakiness really showed. There were times you couldn’t get a fastball by him, and there were times where he looked absolutely lost at the plate. Despite that, he still ended up with 30 bombs and 85 RBIs, and could very well be on his way to 35/100 seasons very soon. Gaby Sanchez was acquired at the trade deadline and showed some promise. He came in as the Pirates plummeted, so his numbers are hard to gauge. Harrison, Mercer, and the rest of the bench weren’t too great. Despite J-Hay’s and Jordy’s versatility, they can’t hit at all. The Pirates’ lack of infield depth really showed when Walker missed significant time in August and September.